At least half a dozen people have been killed and dozens more injured in a mass shooting at a church in the German city of Hamburg.
A major police operation is underway while it's believed the shooter may be among the dead, AFP reports, after a “lifeless person” was found in the community centre. Investigations are continuing to rule out the involvement of any further perpetrators.
A special police unit happened to be driving past the centre when the first shots were fired at around 9pm on Thursday. Local newspaper, Bild, claims that seven people died in the incident and 25 sustained injuries, with eight of those seriously injured, in the shooting.
The shooting is believed to have taken place at the Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall, a three story building, in the Gross Borstel district of Hamburg, which has been closed off by authorities.
It's not yet clear if there was one or more shooters.
Bild says residents were warned of “extreme danger” via a disaster warning app, NINAwarn.
Residents nearby are being told not to leave their homes amid the ongoing operation, while officers are urging people to stay away from the area.
Hamburg police believe shooter may be among the dead
In a statement on Twitter, Hamburg police said “there is no reliable information on the motive for the crime” and appealed to the public not to share assumptions or spread rumours.
While at the scene a police spokesperson said there are “indications that a perpetrator may have been in the building and may be even among the dead”, as reported by DW news. “We have no indications of a perpetrator on the run.”
Hamburg's Mayor, Peter Tschentscher took to Twitter to share his horror, describing reports of the shooting as “shocking”.
“My deepest sympathy goes to the relative of the victims,” he wrote online.
Witnesses saw potential gunman running between floors
Nearby residents reported hearing “about four periods of shooting”.
“There were always several shots in these periods,” local student, Laura Bauch, told German news agency dpa. “Roughly at intervals of 20 seconds to a minute.”
The 23-year-old went on to describe seeing someone moving between the different levels of the building.
“I then looked further out the window and saw a person running hectically from the ground floor to the first floor at the Jehova's Witnesses,” she said, adding that the centre's services were always well attended by families as well as older and younger people.
Jehovah's Witnesses are part of an international church and Christian movement, founded in the United States in the 19th century. Preaching non violence, they are known for their door-to-door evangelism. There are about 170,000 members in Germany, including 3,800 in Hamburg, AP reports.
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